Eyewitness claims victim of officer-involved shooting did not brandish Taser

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This illustration of Alejandro ("Alex") Nieto, from justiceforalexnieto.org, appeared on fliers throughout the Mission District.

A person claiming to be an eyewitness to the fatal shooting of Alejandro Nieto has come forward to say he did not see Nieto point a Taser at police officers before they opened fire, according to attorney Adante Pointer, who is representing Nieto’s family.

The eyewitness, whose identity Pointer would not disclose, told the attorney that he “did not see Alex point a Taser at anybody” and “did not see or hear any back-and-forth exchange that police said took place,” Pointer said in a phone interview with the Bay Guardian.

At a March 26 town hall meeting convened shortly after the officer-involved shooting, which occurred on March 21 in Bernal Heights Park, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr told attendees that Nieto, a 28-year-old City College student, had “tracked” officers with his Taser in the moments before police discharged their weapons.

“When the officers asked him to show his hands, he drew the Taser from the holster. And these particular Tasers, as soon as they’re drawn, they emit a dot. A red dot,” the police chief said, adding that Nieto had verbally challenged officers when they asked him to drop his weapon. “When the officers saw the laser sight on them, tracking, they believed it to be a firearm, and they fired at Mr. Nieto," Suhr said at the time.

Pointer said the person who claims to be an eyewitness did not know Nieto, and had no connection to the incident aside from having been in the park on the night that the shooting occurred.

He said that because the San Francisco Police Department was not forthcoming with information in the months following the shooting, “we launched our own investigation to get to the bottom of this.” The eyewitness came forward after his office initiated a concerted effort to gather information, he added.

Pointer, who works with the Law Offices of John Burris, plans to file a federal civil complaint against the city tomorrow [Fri/22].

Today [Thu/21] marks five months since Nieto’s death. Supporters plan to gather in Bernal Heights Park for a 7pm sunset vigil. They’ll return at 5am the following day for a sunrise vigil, featuring Buddhist chanting and a reading of the names of those killed by the SFPD in past decades, according to an event announcement.

Later that day, also at Bernal Heights Park, friends and supporters of Nieto plan to gather at noon for a non-violent “March for Civil Rights Against Police Killings!” The march will progress from Bernal Heights Park to the Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue, where Pointer will file the complaint.

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